Sony Bravia A8H/A8 OLED TV Review

The Sony Bravia A8H OLED television is a work of art.

The Sony A8H/A8 OLED TV creates an utterly compelling television option for serious home cinema enthusiasts by combining Sony’s premium OLED picture performance with a powerful and direct sound system.

  • Pros
    • Gorgeous, refined picture
    • Good sound quality
    • Ultra-wide viewing angles
    • Bold, industrial design
  • Cons
    • No HDR10+ support
    • Sometimes the fiddly operating system
    • Android TV can frustrate
    • Potential for screen burn

The Sony A8H OLED TV (known in the UK as the A8 or A85) achieves the ideal balance of price and performance by bringing the premium OLED features of the Sony A9G Master Series to a more affordable price point.

Despite its low launch price of $2,799 (approximately ₱141,797) for the 65-inch model, the Sony A8H/A8 features Sony’s top-of-the-line X1 Ultimate processor, Pixel Contrast Booster (for more intense image highlights), and a new OLED version of Sony’s X-Motion Clarity feature first developed for its FALD LCD TVs.

As a result, we’d recommend keeping the Sony Bravia A8H OLED TV even as an older model.

Although the A8H has been superseded by the more recent Sony A80J OLED TV, the A8H’s overall quality remains unaffected.

On the audio front, Sony’s traditional Acoustic Surface Audio system (in which the TV’s screen is actually ‘excited’ into producing sound) is joined by a two-subwoofer bass system and an Acoustic Auto Calibration system that can optimize the TV’s sound to your room with just a few quick test pulses.

The result is nothing short of stunning.

For more on the topic, you may also be interested in:
LG C1 OLED TV

Price and release date

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The Sony A8H/A8 OLED TV was announced at CES 2020 and is now available worldwide in two sizes, 55 and 65 inches, and a single design variant called the A85 OLED in the United Kingdom, which replaces the metal blade stand with a ‘premium stand.’

The 55-inch Sony KD-55A8 / XBR-55A8 is priced at $1,899 (approximately ₱96,203). The 65-inch Sony KD-65A8 / XBR-65A8 is priced at $2,799 (approximately ₱141,797).

That’s nearly identical to the price of LG’s CX OLED, though the CX will also be available in 48-inch and 77-inch sizes this year.

Design

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The 65-inch Sony KD-65A8 / XBR-65A8 that we received for review features a strikingly industrial design, and the screen’s outer few inches are as mind-blowingly thin as we’ve come to expect from OLED technology.

However, the 65A8’s skinny bits are exceptionally well-finished, as well as impressively sturdy and robust.

The remainder of the rear is covered by a much larger section of equally robust bodywork, which houses vital components such as connections, processors, and panel drivers.

On the other hand, this deeper section is so unapologetically muscular, minimalist, and well-made that it contributes to the design appeal rather than feeling like a ‘necessary evil.’

The screen has an appealingly monolithic appearance from the front, with surprisingly little trim to detract from the image.

The metallic finish of this trim, on the other hand, reinforces the high build quality, and the relatively unobtrusive desktop feet perform their function effectively.

Additionally, the feet can be attached in two distinct ways. Either with the screen directly on them or slightly elevated to add a soundbar to your setup.

Four HDMI ports, three USB ports, an Ethernet port, a headphone output, a composite video input, and a digital audio output are included in the connectivity.

Naturally, there is built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

All HDMIs support the latest HDCP 2.3 anti-piracy standard, as well as automatic game mode switching and eARC audio for transmitting uncompressed Dolby Atmos to compatible soundbars.

However, this Sony model does not support 4K/120Hz or variable refresh rates, even though these features are all set to debut on Sony’s PS5 games console later this year.

One final piece of excellent design news concerns the remote control for the 65A8.

With its superb metal-effect finish, spacious layout, and responsive buttons, this Sony TV handset is a far cry from the infuriating designs and unhelpfully flush buttons of the previous few generations of Sony TV handsets.

For more on the topic, you may also be interested in:
Samsung QN95A Neo QLED 4K TV

Smart TV (Android TV)

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As is the case with most of Sony’s TVs these days, the A8H/A8 relies heavily on Android TV for most of its smart TV features.

It does, however, include YouView in the UK, which compensates for Android TV’s shortcomings in terms of support for terrestrial broadcaster catch-up apps.

Android TV runs on Version 9 (Pie), and the OS includes a few Sony-specific enhancements.

When you highlight an option in the Settings menus, for example, an excellent ‘exploded’ explanation of what that feature does now appears.

Additionally, Sony has introduced a new electronic program guide that displays significantly more information on the screen at once than most EPGs while maintaining a (minimal) version of the channel you were watching in the top right corner.

There are new onscreen ‘tips’ for voice control and improved external device detection and information.

As is customary for Android TV, the Sony A8 includes built-in support for Google Chromecast, Google Assistant, and the GooglePlay store.

Additionally, Apple Airplay 2 is now supported out of the box.

The latest Android TV app collection includes Disney Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Tidal (which now supports Dolby Atmos Music), and YouTube.

However, there is no support for the Apple TV app on Android TV (or the Apple TV Plus streaming service).

Android TV is still a long way from being our preferred innovative platform.

Apart from the absence of one or two critical apps, the way the home screen takes up the entire screen and prevents you from watching TV while browsing is particularly aggravating.

However, the Pie version runs more reliably and smoothly than previous versions.

Performance

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The Sony A8’s HD/SDR images are truly stunning. To begin, the set’s upscaling of sub-4K content is astounding.

The addition of high levels of detail and texture appears to be effortless, without causing the image to appear strained or noisy.

This is true even if the 65A8 is fed an extremely grainy or low-quality source.

Additionally, the color judgment applied to each upscaled pixel is exceptional, ensuring that no coarse, slightly ‘off’ color toning is introduced by lesser upscaling engines.

Unusually for today’s television world, the 65A8’s Vivid, Standard, and Cinema picture presets automatically apply HDR remastering to non-HDR sources.

Similarly unusual in today’s television world, this remastering is quite convincing.

It takes a relatively gentle approach, which prevents the expanded color and light from becoming too dissimilar to the SDR source material.

Additionally, it operates on an object-based basis, rather than applying a single set of rules to the entire image, which contributes to its more natural appearance when compared to the majority of SDR to HDR converters.

Finally, if you’re a gamer, you’ll be pleased to learn that when the 65A8’s Game preset is selected, input lag (the time it takes the screen to render its images) drops to a very respectable 18ms.

Television Television set LG 4K resolution Sony

The Sony 65A8’s 4K/HDR images elevate the beauty already present in HD/SDR content to new heights.

For example, dark HDR scenes demonstrate Sony’s mastery of one of the most challenging aspects of OLED technology: the transition from complete to near-black colors.

There is no evidence of the low-level noise that some OLED screens can produce in extremely dark areas.

Indeed, we have yet to witness such superior control, refinement, and black level depth and consistency from any other OLED TV – or, for that matter, any other television period.

Additionally, the Sony 65A8 excels when it comes to the wide color gamuts associated with HDR images.

Sony’s color management system’s immense tonal subtlety helps 4K HDR images appear immaculately three-dimensional, natural, and nuanced.

Indeed, the level of refinement demonstrated in traditionally difficult areas such as skin tones, dark colors, and shadow detail is the best I’ve seen outside of a professional OLED mastering monitor.

Meanwhile, Sony’s Bit mapping technology eliminates the color striping artifacts that fine blends in HDR/Wide Color Gamut content can cause on HDR displays.

Occasionally, the processing required to achieve this results in a slight loss of fine detail in the ‘bitmapped’ area. However, the advantages outweigh this minor disadvantage.

Otherwise, the sharpness and detail of native 4K images are incredible.

Fine details such as pores on the skin, woodland leaves, distant brickwork, and lichen-covered, crag-filled mountains are rendered impeccably.

Additionally, extreme sharpness is achieved without the appearance of commonly associated sharpness artifacts such as ghosty, stressed object edges, excessive source noise, or exaggerated grain.

The acuity rarely falters, either, even when there is a great deal of motion to contend with.

Sony’s motion processor’s ‘MotionFlow 1′ setting brilliantly eliminates judder in 24p movie sources, resulting in a more cinematic look without adding the overly smooth soap opera effect’ that less sensitive motion processors can cause.

However, the Clearness motion option is superior, as it activates Sony’s new X-Motion Clarity feature.

In its OLED form, X-Motion Clarity does not insert full screens of black between the actual image frames, as conventional Black Frame Insertion does.

Rather than that, it overlays partial black frames over only portions of the image, boosting the remaining image areas.

This creates the natural 24p feeling long associated with BFI technology without the usual side effect of significant brightness reduction.

Television Television set LG 4K resolution Sony

As with previous Sony OLED TVs, the 65A8’s primary criticism is that its images are relatively dim – even by OLED standards.

It measures approximately 640 nits on a white HDR square occupying 10% of the screen in Vivid and Standard mode and drops to 540 nits in Cinema mode.

By comparison, the LG OLED65CX achieves over 800 nits in a Vivid manner and over 700 nits in Cinema Home and Standard methods.

This 65A8’s brightness limitation is something to keep in mind if you’re shopping for television for a typically bright room.

However, the 65A8 adds a couple of new features that ensure that, unlike some of its earlier OLED efforts, the 65A8’s HDR images remain punchy.

The Pixel Contrast Booster does an excellent job of bridging the luminance ‘gap’ between the image’s darkest and lightest pixels, significantly increasing the local (pixel-level) intensity that is an OLED trademark.

The impact of this, combined with the screen’s consistently gorgeous blacks, cannot be overstated.

Then there’s the Dynamic Contrast Enhancer from Sony. This is a delicate process that works best with non-movie content.

However, how it enriches and extends light levels in both light and dark directions is frequently spectacular.

And once again, this is accomplished without the image appearing overcooked or forced.

The screen benefits from Dolby Vision’s additional scene-by-scene image data, gaining some extra dynamism and refinement.

With this in mind, it’s unfortunate that Sony does not support HDR10+ as well.

IMAX has officially approved the 65A8 as capable of fully exploiting the IMAX Enhanced picture mastering system, which is now available on a limited number of 4K Blu-rays and video streams (from FandangoNOW in the US and Rakuten in Europe).

And it does indeed enhance the beauty of IMAX Enhanced sources, bringing out the enhanced color purity and noiseless detail that are the mastering system’s hallmarks.

With this in mind, it would have been nice to see Sony embrace the new Filmmaker Mode and Dolby Vision IQ picture presets that have been adopted by several Sony television rivals this year.

Sony’s justification for not doing so is that it believes its image processing eliminates the need for such third-party image ‘assistance.’

And, given how good the 65A8’s images typically look, it’s more challenging to argue with this statement than it would typically be.

Apart from not being as well-suited to bright rooms as some rival TVs, the Sony 65A8’s only 4K/HDR shortcomings are its lack of 4K/120Hz gaming support and the relatively high reflectivity of its screen.

For more on the topic, you may also be interested in:
Philips OLED 805 Ambilight TV

Sound

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The 65A8’s audio is a perfect match for its impeccably cinematic images.

The use of stereo ‘actuators’ to stimulate the screen into producing the TV’s audio results in a more detailed and powerful soundstage than is typically heard with an OLED or LCD TV.

Additionally, the soundtracks the onscreen action almost uncannily well, such that when a car moves from one side of the screen to the other, you will hear the sound move across the screen with the car.

Voices, too, remain fixed to the speaker’s lips.

Crucially, the sound is not limited to the screen.

Ambient and off-screen sounds extend well beyond the physical boundaries of the screen, filling your room and completely immersing you in action.

Indeed, while watching Dolby Atmos content, I occasionally got the impression that some ambient sound effects were coming from behind me.

The 65A8’s Dolby Atmos sound stage is not particularly tall.

Otherwise, the precision and dynamics of its object-based sound playback are exceptional for a built-in television speaker system.

Additionally, the addition of a second subwoofer to Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio system effectively rounds out the 65A8’s midrange and bass, with typically no distortion or crackle even at very high volumes.

Indeed, the clarity maintained during loud, dense action scenes is astounding for panel-exciting technology.

The subs bottom out slightly earlier than they should, falling short of the depths reached by the LG OLED65CX.

On the other hand, Sony’s bass drivers accept their limitations, which means they do not experience the same level of distortion as the LG model does under extreme duress.

Additional panels to contemplate…

The Sony 65A8’s most direct 2020 competitor is the 65-inch LG CX OLED.

The primary selling point of this identically priced 65-inch OLED TV is that its HDR-enabled images are noticeably brighter and punchier.

As a result, it may be the preferable option for relatively bright living rooms.

The 65A8, on the other hand, delivers an unmatched refined, elegant image – particularly in very dark scenes – that is ideal for a home theater room or a living room with relatively easy control over light levels.

If you’re serious about exploring the bright side of the HDR equation while saving a few hundred pounds, consider Sony’s XH95/X950H LCD TVs.

This easily exceeds 1000 nits in the brightest parts of HDR images and maintains these levels of brightness surprisingly consistently for an LCD TV.

However, the trade-off is that the 65A8’s black levels are not nearly as deep and stable.

Final verdict

While the 65A8’s lack of core brightness limits its use to relatively dark rooms, its color refinement, local contrast, and noiseless clarity consistently produce mesmerizing images.

Essentially, it’s a serious film buff’s dream.

Suppose you can get past the Sony 65A8’s images not being the brightest.

In that case, you’ll be rewarded with arguably the most exquisitely consistent, immersive, and refined images we’ve seen on any TV to date.


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